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April 22, 2010 5:46 am

Time to get creative with trash

Written by Tribune Staff

Landfill issue won't go away

With the closure of the Powell landfill creeping ever closer, word that the Park County Board of Commissioners will not support a proposed capital-facilities tax to pay for — among other things — a waste transfer station in Powell means it's time for city leaders to think creatively about garbage.

Transporting waste to the county landfill outside Cody will be a costly endeavor. One of the key ways to minimize that cost is to reduce the amount of trash leaving Powell. The concept is simple — less so is how city officials and Powell residents will go about it.

Some out-of-the-box thinking may prove helpful.

A city-wide curbside recycling service is a viable option. It would surely necessitate additional funding for the local non-profit recycling center, but that's a hurdle that could be cleared.

Mandatory composting is another way to reduce the amount of garbage filling roll-outs and dumpsters around town. The composted material could be utilized by homeowners, the Parks Department, the school district and the college. Excess compost could be sold to area gardeners or other municipalities.

Fines for residents and business owners or managers who refuse to cooperate could be levied by the city on an increasingly-stringent basis over a number of years.

The city of San Francisco has implemented both mandatory recycling and composting programs in recent years. According to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome, “A waste-stream analysis ... discovered that about two thirds of the garbage people throw away ... could have been recycled or turned to compost.”

Mandatory recycling went into effect in San Francisco early in the decade — by mid-2009, 72 percent of recyclable material was being diverted from the landfill. Similar results are expected with the composting law that took effect in October 2009.

Diverting two-thirds of Powell's waste from the Park County Landfill is a lofty goal, but, with a strong commitment from residents and officials, it's attainable. If San Francisco — with a metropolitan population of nearly 8 million people — can do it, similar change can happen in our 6,000-resident hamlet.

Other cities — both large and small — across the country have utilized similar approaches to divert waste from landfills. Closer to home, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center has implemented new green programs to dramatically reduce trash.

For the city, the up-front investment in the process and the necessary infrastructure would be a small price to pay to reduce transportation costs significantly for decades to come. The environmental benefits are icing on the cake.

The Powell landfill will stop accepting household waste by 2012. Now is the time to hash out a creative — even if unconventional — solution.